Bedtime Stories: Space Operas!


Post by Mark T. Locker.

A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix.

As long as there are no dragons, I tend to enjoy young adult/teen fantasy. Science fiction is, generally speaking, a different story. I discovered Douglas Adams in my middle school years and he has always been the exception to my disinterest in sci-fi. But you know how there are some authors who could write a phone book and it would be amazing? That’s kind of how I feel about Garth Nix. Although mostly a YA/teen fantasy novelist, he has breached the sci-fi genre with his most recent novel, A Confusion of Princes. I figured, what the heck, I’d give it a try despite the obvious science fiction overtones. Note: I just learned that technically, it’s a “space opera”, whatever that is.

Here’s my takeaway: it was good enough to read all the way through. Nix has a way of creating imaginative worlds that don’t come across as silly and contrived. Sometimes I open a book and see all the names are Llethywynn and Glêmrax and I just close it straight away, because it’s silly! This one isn’t overly serious or overly silly. It’s intriguing, exciting, fun. My only criticism would be that 75% of the way through the book, I was sure it would lead to a sequel, but instead he just wraps it up very, very rapidly and I was left thinking: huh. I guess it’s over, then. Other than that, totally fun and will give you some interesting dreams.

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Movies in Bed: Les Misérables

Post by Mark T. Locker.

This is the first movie I have seen all the way through since hobbling my way through The Hobbit back in December. My wife is a huge fan of the music and was needless to say eager to watch this together. The only musical I really enjoy is Singin’ in the Rain, which has amazing tap dancing and Gene Kelly is so handsome and Debby Reynolds is just cute as a button!

Neither Hugh Jackman nor Russell Crowe could be described as cute as a button. Some may describe Anne Hathaway as such, but not me. What Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway are, however, are outstandingly talented singers and actors. It’s hard not to choke up seeing Anne’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream”. It’s also even more difficult to watch Russell Crowe bleat out his lines. I don’t know who cast him in this movie, but it was an unwise decision. He very nearly manages to ruin the movie.

But he doesn’t, thank goodness!

It is a very sad, dark, intense movie, so it may give you sad, dark, intense dreams. It certainly did me. But more than that, it gave me lots of dreams about “I Dreamed a Dream.” If I had one criticism of the movie (besides Russell Crowe) it’s that that song gets stuck in my head, and I don’t know the lyrics so I end up making up my own lyrics. Happily, mine are less heartbreaking and tend to be about monkeys and sausages.

So, go rent this if you haven’t seen it.

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Things We Like: Warm Feet For Better Sleep

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

Do you ever get cold feet when falling asleep? Apparently, cold feet may actually inhibit your ability to fall asleep quickly. A group of Swiss researches conducted a study a while back that found a correlation between the distal-proximal temperature gradient — a fancy term used to measure the blood flow in your hands and feed — and your body’s ability to fall asleep quickly. In other words, the warmer your hands and feet are in the late evening, the faster you’re able to fall asleep.

The researchers learned some other interesting connections between body temperature and sleep: your body temperature predictably increases on its own as it readies for sleep. This change in temperature can be triggered by a number of factors such as whether you’re lying down (which pushes blood and heat out to your fingers and toes), where your body is along its circadian clock (your natural clock starts warming you up for bedtime on its own), and whether it’s dark outside (darkness is a long-time trigger for sleep). And for those of you who like to sleep with the air conditioning on cold, it may actually be due to the fact that a cooler ambient temperature increases the transfer of heat at your extremities.

Some people have suggested that wearing socks can help you fall asleep faster, but many have expressed a general discomfort for wearing extra clothing to bed. Fortunately, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like wearing socks to bed, you can stimulate a similar effect by placing a warm bottle of water at the foot of the bed. In earlier times, many households used metal pans filled with hot coals to warm the bed. Today, plastic has made it much easier (and safer) to achieve the same effect.

If you’d like to read more about the study’s findings, you can find a nice summary of the research here (and it’s free). The text begins at the top right column, and continues down to the second page.

Do you find that you sleep better with warm feet (or socks on)? Do you have any other tips and tricks that help you doze off quicker? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Breakfast in Bed: Buckwheat Blini

Post by Alison Hein.

Blini are a type of traditional Russian pancake made with yeasted batter. In ancient times, blini were prepared at the end of winter to honor the rebirth of the sun. This tradition still holds today when Russians celebrate Maslenitsa to welcome the spring.

Blini can be made with various flours, but buckwheat blini have an earthy richness that subtly enhance and bend to the myriad of topping alternatives. Serve them hot or cold, sweet or savory. Try them with butter and jam, chopped egg and mushroom, smoked trout and parsley, and most definitely try them warm and buttered with frosty sturgeon caviar and crème fraîche atop.

Freeze the extra. They thaw quickly and impress for last minute brunches, unplanned get-togethers or spontaneous breakfasts in bed.

Buckwheat Blini
3 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 packet yeast
2 cups buckwheat flour
4 eggs
Additional butter for cooking

Preparation
Add milk to small, heavy saucepan and place on stove over medium heat. Allow to heat, without stirring, until tiny ripples begin to form across the surface of the milk (scalded milk). Remove milk from heat and add butter, honey and salt. Pour milk mixture into large bowl. Allow to cool until tepid, then sprinkle yeast lightly and evenly across surface.

Let yeast rest about 10 minutes, until it begins to activate and resembles wet sand. Stir in buckwheat flour, cover with a light tea towel, and allow to rise in a warm, dry place until doubled (at least 2 hours).

Separate eggs into two separate bowls – one for whites and one for yolks. Whisk the yolks until smooth and light, then whisk into batter until evenly mixed. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into blini batter.

Place pan or griddle on burner over medium heat. Melt a small amount of butter in the pan for the first blini. Use a tablespoon to spoon batter into pan and cook until small bubbles appear across surface. Flip once with thin spatula and continue cooking less than one minute until lightly browned and cooked through. Serve warm or cool with a variety of toppings.

Makes approximately 100 2-inch diameter blini.

Buckwheat Blinis with Smoked Trout and Crème Fraîche
10 buckwheat blini
2 tablespoons crème fraîche (or substitute sour cream)
2 to 4 ounces smoked trout
1 tablespoon Italian parsley leaves

Place a dab of crème fraîche on the surface of each blini. Break off a small piece of smoked trout and place on top of crème fraîche. Place another dab of crème fraîche on top of the trout and add a parsley leaf for color. Can be made several hours in advance and served lightly chilled.

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Bedroom Design: A Better Way to Wake Up

Post by Stephanie Noble.

On weekdays, I wake to a squawking beep that is impossible to ignore. That is by design, because it is not easy to get up at 5:00a.m. when my body is saying, “Just another hour or two would be so much better .”

We may not raise corn or cows, but our commute has us keeping farmer’s hours.

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” My first grade teacher had us memorize this advice from Benjamin Franklin and for most of my life I have followed it, although never quite as early to rise as I currently manage.

On the weekends and holidays, the squawking is turned off. It is replaced by a much more palatable, “Dad? Mamma? DAD? MAMA? DAD?? MAMA??” refrain of our son letting us he’s ready for us to rescue him from his crib and start our day’s adventures.

Sometimes, if Alarm Number Two is really tired and sleeps past 6:30, I wake up to the avian songs of our neighbors who have built a nest next to our window.

Basically, five days of my week I am rushed out of deep sleep in a way that is extra harsh when compared to my weekend wakeup calls.

Thus my quest for a gentler alarm clock, one that breaks through the cozy comfy dream world to get my butt out of bed, but maybe with a little more kindness than the squawking beep that puts me in a bad mood.

The Zen Alarm Clock Company in Boulder, CO has created Zen Clock’s ‘E tone’ chime has been hand-tuned to produce the same tone as the tuning forks used by musical therapists. The 10 minute chime progression sequence follows the “golden ratio progression” to gently move one from sleep to an awake state with music.


I’ve also been looking at Soleil Sun Alarm SA-3 Sunrise and Sunset FM Radio Alarm Clock. It gradually lightens the room to  Set the alarm for your desired time to wake in the morning, choose the Sunrise time (i.e., set sunrise for 15 minutes and for 15 minutes prior to alarm time the light will gradually get brighter and brighter until the intensity awakens you.  Just like natural sunlight. It can also be set to nature sounds like chirping birds, crickets, flowing water or an ocean.

Much better than the rude squawker!

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